Beginning Wednesday, July 19, passengers on all flights from Colombia to the United States will face more stringent security checks, specifically when it comes to the electronic devices they choose to carry into the cabin of the plane.
The new protocol will affect all inbound flights to the United States — including those operated by commercial, charter, and private aircraft — from 105 countries throughout the world, not just Colombia. The changes come at the same time that the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is ending its outright ban on laptops being brought into the cabin by passengers traveling from several Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East.
While all the details of the intensified scrutiny remain unclear to the public, reports indicate that security officials will be directed to prioritize checking devices larger than a mobile phone, particularly those that show any physical damage or other irregularities, to ensure they are not explosive devices. If an electronic device fails a security review, the airline will be barred from transporting it.
When discussing the new requirements last month, John Kelly, head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), said that he encourages airports across the world to adopt more sophisticated screening approaches, especially in terms of using bomb-sniffing dogs and “advanced checkpoint screening technology.”
“Inaction is not an option,” said Kelly in June. “Those who choose not to cooperate or are slow to adopt these measures could be subject to other restrictions — including a ban on electronic devices on aircraft or even a suspension of their flights to the United States.”
Colombia’s aviation authority Aeronautica Civil (Aerocivil) has recommended that passengers arrive earlier to the airport, whether it be in Bogotá, Medellín, Cartagena, Cali or any other location where the flight is bound for the United States.
Colombia’s largest airline Avianca said in a statement that “the inspection of carry-on baggage will be intensified” and that “compliance with the regulations becomes mandatory” beginning tomorrow.
In all, there are currently 23 direct flights that will be affected that carry approximately 60,000 passengers combined per week, according to Aerocivil. El Tiempo, the largest newspaper in Colombia, reported that 1.2 million passengers traveled between the two countries from the start of January through the end of May.
The new procedures, which begin at midnight on the night of July 18, date back to a protocol, “Security Directive DS-1544-17-01,” enacted by TSA on June 28. Globally, the U.S. directive affects roughly 280 airports in 105 countries that transport an average of 325,000 passengers per day on around 2,100 daily flights to the United States, according to the TSA.
“Terrorists want to bring down aircraft to instill fear, disrupt our economies, and undermine our way of life — and it works, which is why they still see aviation as a crown-jewel target,” said Kelly in June. “The threat has not diminished. In fact, I am concerned that we are seeing renewed interest on the part of terrorist groups to go after the aviation sector … We are not standing on the sidelines while fanatics hatch new plots. The U.S. government is focused on deterring, detecting, and disrupting these threats.”